The programme seeks to improve the quality of life for those with dementia enabling them to live independently at home for longer. The technology will address common challenges like agitation and failing to take medication correctly.
The project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), has identified radio as a popular media form amongst people living with dementia.
Developers subsequently discovered how to seamlessly integrate live digital broadcast so that listeners will receive personalised reminders, information and music.
Led by researchers from the University of Plymouth, collaborating with the Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) among other institutes, the project will be trialled among those living with dementia in Cambridgeshire and Sussex for a period of 50 months.
The team at the University of Plymouth also have plans in the pipeline to develop a commercial bio-bracelet which will feature wireless speakers, internet connection as well as the ability to measure a wearers heart rate.
Jörg Fachner, Professor of music, health and the brain at ARU, said that the team seek to discover how exactly people with dementia can benefit from the “interactive radio experience”.
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He added: “Music therapists at ARU and partner organisations will use biomarker responses to fine-tune playlists in order to deliver emotional and cognitive stimulation, and evaluate exactly how interactive music interventions, using AI, can benefit people with dementia in their own homes and in assisted living environments.”
The University of Plymouth will develop the AI software which will produce the Radio Me output in users’ homes. A crucial aspect of the revolutionary system will be an electronic diary completed by users and their carers.
Professor Eduardo Miranda, from the University of Plymouth, added: “Radio Me builds on research carried out as part of our previous EPSRC-funded project into a brain-computer music interface, as well as our work on artificial intelligence, music influencing emotion, and the university’s long-running involvement in shaping national policy on dementia.
“Helping people with dementia to stay in their homes for as long as possible, even if they live alone, is a key aim of the project.
“Technology exists to display reminders about vital daily tasks, but research has shown older adults find modern electronic devices difficult to use, and people with dementia have particular problems.”
The system enables a potential user to switch on the radio and locate their preferred local station however, at specific points, a DJ-like voice could override the presenter and remind the listener to take their medication.
Radio Me could even detect whether a listener is becoming agitated which would prompt the software to override the station and select a calming song from the individual’s personal library.
According to the researchers, the calming material could continue to be played until Radio Me detects the user is no longer agitated.
As well as reminding the person to drink or take their medication, the system could also feature a memory café. Dr Alexis Kirke from the University of Plymouth stated that this would be achieved through what he described as a “humanistic speech synthesiser”.
The project led by the University of Plymouth, as well as the Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research at Anglia Ruskin University, is a partnership between Plymouth’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research, the Centre for Dementia Studies at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, the Glasgow Interactive Systems group at the University of Glasgow.
In April 2019, a £20m research centre was launched to develop technologies that can be used to improve the care of dementia patients in the UK.
Earlier in May 2019, researchers from the University of Kent also discovered that virtual reality (VR) could aid people suffering from dementia to recall past memories as well as tackling behavioural issues.